A GLORIOUSLY sunny day greeted competitors for the Midlands 12 & 6-Stage Road Relays Championships at Sutton Park in Birmingham, where Stratford Athletic Club fielded a ladies’ team consisting of six runners and a men’s team of 12.
The relay race consists of a combination of long and short legs, of approximately 3 and 5.4 miles respectively. The ladies’ race consists of two long and four short legs and the men’s of four long and eight short legs.
Although only a short race, the opening mile consists of a quite steep hill and the remainder of the course includes challenging inclines with a nasty little hill right at the finish.
First off for Stratford ladies, running a long leg, was Emma Bexson who set a blistering pace. She finished in the superb time of 36.55 to place the club 22nd out of 64 teams competing.
Emma really is in superb form at the moment and, despite finding it quite warm, was still able to run supremely well.
Emma handed over to Seanin Gilmore, whose time for the shorter leg was a fabulous 21.31. This enabled SAC to maintain 22nd place.
Next to run, on the final long leg, was Sarah Odell who was well outside of her comfort zone, usually preferring much much longer distances, preferably involving very steep hills and plenty of mud. Despite this, she was able to run a time of 43.07, at just under eight minutes a mile pace.
Nic Reynolds was up next and, despite having competed the extremely challenging Banbury 15-mile race the previous Sunday, she managed to run the shorter leg in a time of 29.44.
At this time the club were in 39th place, a position they were able to maintain for the final three legs.
Following Nic was 19-year-old Caroline Furey, whose time of 26 minutes ensured nobody overtook her.
Caroline then handed over to Wendy Bowyer, who also managed to ensure she was not overtaken and her time of 26.41 gave the club an overall time of 3:03.58 and a very respectable 39th place.
FIRST off for Stratford’s men’s team was one of the club’s rising stars, 18-year-old Oscar Barbour.
Despite his age, Oscar is a very experienced runner and, as such, it was no surprise he was able to run the first long leg in the extremely quick time of just 31.58, at an average pace of just under six minutes a mile.
This ensured Tim Hutchinson started off in 37th place. Tim was able to improve on this position by three places due to an exhilarating run of 31.22 and a pace of close to 5.50.
Tim handed over to Fergus Alison, who, like Oscar, is just 18 years old. Fergus was the third consecutive Stratford runner to complete the challenging long leg in a sub-six-minute mile average.
He said he had thoroughly enjoyed the race and well he might have, completing his leg in just 32.03. The performance of both Oscar and Fergus ensures the future of the club’s endurance running is in safe hands.
For the final long leg, it was down to Robin Kindersley to maintain the club’s flying start. Despite being more than 40 years the senior of both Oscar and Fergus, he was still able to run at 6.20 pace, finishing in a time of 34.04 to leave the club still in 37th place.
At the end of the four longer legs the club were amazingly averaging just under six-minute-mile pace. The first of the shorter legs was run by captain for the day, David Smyth, who played a captain’s innings, running the three miles in 20.47 to hand over to consistent Malcolm Bowyer.
He ran the quickest short leg for the club, in a time of 20.32, showing he is in superb form as he gets close to yet another London Marathon.
Kieran Tursner was complaining of sleep deprivation before the start, having become a father for the first time just six weeks ago. However, you would have never known this from his wonderful run of 21.02.
The club was now more than 30 miles into the race and still averaging just over six-minute-mile pace and holding on to 36th position.
Next to run for the club was Phil Brennan, who would be the first to admit he is somewhat at the other end of the age spectrum to Oscar and Fergus. Despite this, and despite the fact he had run the tough Banbury 15-mile race less than a week ago, Phil dropped just five places and completed his leg in 23.56.
Next up was another runner who ran a tough race less than a week previous, David Jones. David completed in the recent Ashby 20 and, as such, was relatively pleased with his time of 23.00, dropping just one place.
Phil Marshall ran the tenth leg for the club, dropping just two places to record a time of 24.31, before handing over to Ben Twyman who ran a fabulous time of 23.02.
The final leg was run by Christopher Wilson, who was running in his first road relay for the club. Christopher has been a member of the club for just a year and in that time has become a very accomplished runner – a fact reinforced by both an electric finishing sprint and superb time of 24.01.
He managed to gain a couple of places, ensuring the club completed the race in 5:10.08 and finished 42nd out of 76.
There cannot have been many clubs competing on the day who had a 56-year age difference between youngest and oldest team member.
Report by David Jones.